(keep reading to learn what happened)
Season: 6 | View All Season 6 Episodes
Original Episode Air Date: November 9, 2012
Mama Maria's Address: 307 Court St Brooklyn, NY 11231
Mama Maria’s was a Brooklyn, New York pizza restaurant featured on season 6 of Kitchen Nightmares.
The Mama Maria’s Kitchen Nightmares episode aired on November 9, 2012, but the actual filming and visit from Gordon Ramsay took place earlier in June 2012.
It was Kitchen Nightmares Season 6 Episode 3.
In this episode of Kitchen Nightmares Chef Gordon Ramsay takes us to Mama Maria’s in Brooklyn, New York.
Soon after, we meet the Mama Maria’s owner, John Esposito.
Mama Maria’s is the sister business to Sal’s Pizzeria, which is the family business attached to Mama Maria’s.
The two are totally connected, which is a bit of a unique situation as far as Kitchen Nightmares goes.
I can’t remember any other sibling restaurants featured on the show – if you can, let us know in the comments!
Sal’s Pizzeria was first, but the business expanded over the years and purchased the building next door.
After John’s mother died, he renamed the restaurant to Mama Maria’s in remembrance of his mother.
Over the years sales have dropped in both the restaurants.
Some people think that John isn’t managing the business very well, as he is overwhelmed by running both of the businesses at the same time.
When Gordon arrives at Mama Maria’s he isn’t impressed at all with the beat-up exterior of the restaurant.
The awning has been ripped across the lettering of the restaurant’s name.
Not a great first impression for potential diners, right?
After meeting John, Gordon then sits down to order off the menu.
For a change of pace, Gordon is impressed when he reads that the pasta is made daily on-site.
However, Gordon’s dining experience would soon start to go down hill…
Gordon orders tortellini di patate, spaghetti meatballs, and a margherita pizza.
When the tortellini arrives Gordon finds it to be bland, and can tell that it was frozen.
Gordon is disappointed to learn that they make the pasta fresh, but then freeze it immediately to use another day.
That’s kind of stretching the definition of making something fresh daily.
The spaghetti meatballs arrive next and Gordon can once again tell that the meatballs have been frozen without even sampling the food, as the meatballs are very dry and spongy.
Lastly, the pizza arrives and it is way too greasy.
Like – stick a napkin on it to soak up the grease, levels of greasy. Remember doing that in middle school? I know I did.
Afterwards, Gordon Ramsay gives his feedback to the kitchen staff.
However, John, the Mama Maria’s owner, is defensive, and not receptive to Gordon’s criticism.
Later that night Gordon comes back to the restaurant to observe it during a dinner rush.
Gordon observes John in the corner making pizza for Sal’s Pizzeria and completely ignoring the tickets coming in while the rest of the kitchen staff members do the cooking.
As a result, customers are becoming very unhappy with the wait time and the food they receive.
A customer who ate a bad lobster tail is in the bathroom throwing up.
John has to call an ambulance because the sick diner is not getting better, making other diners very uncomfortable and resulting in John shutting the restaurant down for the night.
I know I definitely wouldn’t be having fun if I were watching someone else vomit at the restaurant I was eating at!
The next day Gordon inspected the freezers and found a lot of frozen food, buckets of frozen pasta, and meat and sauce covered in mold and freezer burn.
Nothing in the freezer is dated or labeled and with some items it is impossible to guess what they ever were.
It’s a rough situation, but Gordon can work his magic and fix it, right?
He and his team get to work…
The next day Gordon reveals the first change he has made to the awning out front by replacing it with a bold and modern new sign.
Gordon has also placed pictures of John‘s parents, the original owners, on the walls and has added custom tablecloths onto the tables.
Here’s an image of the Mama Maria’s exterior at night:
Gordon has also made changes to the menu by replacing it with a new menu that includes smaller dishes using fresher ingredients.
The night of relaunch was a total success and all the diners loved the ambience and the taste of the new food.
So was the Mama Maria’s / Sal’s Pizzeria Kitchen Nightmares episode a long-term success? Keep reading to learn what happened next and if it’s still open in 2024.
Mama Maria's Update - What Happened Next?
Now that we’ve recapped the Mama Maria’s Kitchen Nightmares, you’re wondering wondering whether the restaurant is still open. Let’s talk about it…
Things seemed to start off well after Gordon Ramsay left as sales at the restaurant were up by 10%.
That will definitely help with long-term success.
If you want some behind-the-scenes insights, John Esposito (the Mama Maria’s / Sal’s Pizzeria owner) did an interview with a local publication about his Kitchen Nightmares experience.
You can read the full 2012 interview here, but here’s a quick excerpt of the most relevant response from John:
The first two days were like a hardcore boot camp, and the last two were for rebuilding.
Early on it was really hard to deal with the negative criticism.
It was a hard pill to swallow.
In the end, we all came around, but that time was short.
I wish we had more one-on-one time with Ramsay earlier on.
John also said that younger people liked the new menu from Gordon Ramsay, while old-timers preferred the old menu.
I guess that’s life, huh?
Enough backstory, though – let’s talk about the biggest question on your minds…
Is Mama Maria’s still open after Kitchen Nightmares?
Mama Maria’s and Sal’s Pizzeria both closed in February 2023.
That means they survived for well over a decade from the original Gordon Ramsay visit before their eventual closure.
Mama Maria’s closed because John Esposito, the Mama Maria’s owner, wanted to retire.
He had been working there since he was 12 years old, so that’s quite a long run.
Below, you can see an announcement on the clipboard about the closure:
Maria Esposito, his daughter, also posted a story on Instagram explaining a little more about why Mama Maria’s and Sal’s Pizzeria closed.
Both Mama Maria’s and Sal’s Pizzeria are also now marked as permanently closed on Google.
I also found an announcement in Brooklyn Mag about the closure, for even more evidence.
While that article focuses on Sal’s Pizza Store, I believe that both Sal’s and Mama Maria’s are closing as a result of John’s retirement.
Here’s what the Mama Maria’s Brooklyn location looks like in the most recent picture from Google Maps street view…
You can see Sal’s Pizzeria in the foreground, while the Mama Maria’s sign is behind the tree.
Before its closure, the Mama Maria’s reviews were solid and customers seemed happy, which is what you want from a restaurant.
Mama Maria’s had a four star rating on Yelp, while Sal’s Pizzeria only had a three star rating.
So, it appears that the Gordon Ramsay touch is worth an extra star.
John kept most of Gordon’s changes, though he did bring back a few of the older dishes to respond to customer requests.
Here’s a sampling of reviews for Mama Maria’s after Gordon Ramsay’s visit.
5 star Yelp review from 2020:
First time leaving a review and it’s all because i can’t get Mama Maria’s out of my mind.
Great atmosphere, great food, great people.
Specials always interesting and tasty.
Bonus points for walking around the same place Gordon Ramsey did almost 10 years ago.
5 star Yelp review from 2020:
This has always been one of my favourite places to eat in New York even though it’s in Brooklyn.
Ever since I saw that heartbreaking episode of kitchen nightmares I’m a real sucker for sob stories especially when I believe it’s all true.
I just felt so sorry for the lovely owner and his story and losing both his parents so close together.
I was extremely happy to find all the items on his menu that my husband and my two sons eight were absolutely delicious.
Even though we don’t live in New York every time we return we make a point of going back to Brooklyn to our favourite restaurant thank you so much
5 star Yelp review from 2019:
Great job keeping up with the quality of the food.
The best part of the meal was the shredded cheese that melted on contact with the pasta, it was heavenly.
The Waitress was nice and attentive to the customers .
Gordon Ramsay would be proud !
5 star Google review from 2021:
I went there yesterday afternoon with my wife after we went to IKEA to get some furniture, obviously I wanted to try it since I saw the Kitchen Nightmares episode on YouTube.
Everything about this neighborhood speaks family, cultural and home made.
Sals pizzeria and mamma Maria’s restaurant make this neighborhood look amazing.
Now on to the food, while we didn’t stay for a huge dinner we grabbed a few slices and let me tell you, those slices are exactly how pizza is supposed to be made.
Traditional pizza done the absolute best way.
4 star Google review from 2019:
$5 per topping on a small pizza seems a little crazy.
Also their online menu says $3.50 for a glass of bad wine but it’s $7 around dinner? Just say so.
Very very tasty pizza.
Got a fresh pie, not sure about by the slice.. really good stuff
Honestly, there really aren’t that many negative reviews and I had to dig around to find them.
Here are a few of the negative reviews that I was able to find…
1 star Google review from 2019;
No….just no, the rave reviews are lies…but then again maybe it was for the pizza, I can’t speak for the pizza.
I came for authentic Italian food which this place does not make…the waiter is very, very nice but insincere.
A really nice guy would steer you to a better entree, or make sure its cooked and presented properly….
I’m very disappointed.
I pass here everyday on my way home for years and this is the 1st time I actually stopped in for dinner.
1 star Google review from 2021:
Filled up with their burnt bread since it took them about 45min to bring food.
Ravioli were under cooked and the filling had no taste.
Appetizer tasted a bit suspicious, I think the peppers were expired and the mozzarella was watery.
Had high expectations since on Kitchen Nightmares’ they revamped and Yelp reviews were decent.
Am aware were all going through a lot due to the pandemic but it shouldn’t ruin how you make food if you want to stay afloat.
I feel the pizzeria is what keeps them open..
Final thoughts on Mama Maria’s
Overall, while Mama Maria’s and Sal’s Pizza Store have closed, I think that this one still counts as one of the Kitchen Nightmare success stories – congratulations to John and the rest of the Mama Maria’s restaurant staff.
The Mama Maria’s and Sal’s Pizzeria Brooklyn locations both survived for well over a decade after Gordon Ramsay’s visit, which is a great performance.
While Mama Maria’s reviews were better than the Sal’s Pizzeria reviews, both seemed to be succesful businesses.
They only closed because John Esposito, the owner, wanted to retire after a long career in the business.
If you want to see some other New York City Kitchen Nightmares episodes, check out these updates:
If you’re in New York City and you have a chance to visit Mama Maria’s, please let me know how it went in the comments!
Thanks for reading!
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Last updated: 2023-02-24 08:02